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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Iceland,Crazy Horse hands, and Germans sleeping

In honor of Neil Young kicking off his 2014 European Tour (revisited) this summer in Iceland, playing there for the first time ever with the boys from Crazy Horse....

(Remember last summer Poncho broke his hand and they had to cancel mid-tour?) Poncho said it was probably their last tour in an interview with Rolling Stone. Never say the word "last" to Neil Young unless it's maybe "Last Trip to Tulsa."

The beautiful hands of guitar players....

The show takes place at  Laugardalshöllin in Reykjavík on a Monday and my very Human Highway friend Michael will travel there to see it - all the way from Tennessee, from a place with road names like "Possum Paw," "Gnat Hill" and "Dug Hollow." Imagine that journey....

                                                         Reykjavík, Iceland

Michael and his students made the wonky T-shirts for last year's first-ever Human Highway gathering. It's a long story, Human Highway....a long road now under construction.

And so this is the first time Iceland is mentioned in a poem about the Human Highway journey, those we meet along the way and then somehow lose. But you know the saying: "No one ever said that life was fair."

The Last Time I Thought Of Iceland

The last time I thought of Iceland
it was the middle of a summer night
and there were two fans going that
sounded like the refrigerator generators
from our childhood.
A cat was scratching at the bedroom
door because a light was still on.
I watched your airplane travel in
an arc over the Atlantic ocean –
maybe 2 a.m. it moved across
Iceland on the flight tracker that filled
the computer screen.
All night long in tiny increments
the distance between us narrowed
and I practiced how I might look at
you the first time. Ok, so if he finds
me horrifying in some way there is
no plan B, I thought, and got out of bed
searching for that last cigarette I
had smoked years ago.
You tell me now that as you
stumbled out of customs after two hours
standing in line anxious
from all you’d heard about
America and how maybe the NSA would snatch you
and detain you in a small hot room
for days
suddenly someone jumped on you,
wrapped their arms around you tight,
like a blood pressure cuff,
squeezing so you couldn’t breathe.
I don’t recall doing this
but sometimes I still wake up in
the middle of the night with
the fans sounding like refrigerator
generators from our childhood
and I feel you beside me, smelling
like German after shave
and sleeping without moving.
Then I trace your journey back
as you arc high over Iceland, and I
think if I had the chance to do it all over
I would still have jumped on you
but maybe introduced myself first
as an NSA operative,
and then detained you, for years,
eating tomatoes and onions for
breakfast, even now,
Even today,
as I write this.

                                                   First American Lumberjack breakfast

 For Rainer.....who left too soon but I guess he was needed in another quantum reality.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looking for a Girl With a Washing Machine

What do we value when life is a frozen wasteland?

Get up in the dark, go home in the dark.
Frozen doors, mind, heart -
all systems are on icy-edge, gluttonous and world-weary.

Eureka! Discovering music that I missed is like opening a gift.

"Looking for a Girl With a Washing Machine" - Big Sleep's big hit.

Big Sleep was a hot German band back in the days and lead singer Stefan Schwerdtfeger (translation "swordsweeper") now carries on the sound from exotic Thessaloniki, Greece.

In his youth- perhaps during one of his many, mad excursions to the west coast of France- he was in need of a washing machine, somewhat in the same context as Neil Young's "A Man Needs a Maid."

I am from the generation that remembers wringer washers and the terror associated with possibly getting your arm mangled in the wringer - as our mother's warned - but I never knew anyone missing an arm from a laundry disaster.


Stefan's apartment overlooks the ocean, doors and windows wide open, clothes drying on the line - flapping in the salty breeze. The aroma of mussels steaming......

Like an old-world minstrel, he is both a gifted musician and a wordsmith, traveling by train along the Grecian coast or in big, lumbering busses - headed for the Albanian Mountains. He carries his dreams with him to cozy cafes and corner bars that open into the streets. I picture them dark and smoky - loud with raucous singing -  much laughter and drinking into the wee hours.

                                    I feel a nostalgic-melancholic-longing for a European setting and thick accents and genetic generations past...calling.....

Stefan's lyrics paint pictures and his music... like waves washing over your psyche.


You and your blue shirt...
You are your blue shirt...
You and your auto-pilot
circling through the room
high above the bed
looking like a mobile unit.

You and your tennis-shoes,
birds in a cage and
clouds outside
drifting by the window
like big ships.
You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...

You and your sea-shell eyes
and your pop-song lies
watching time go by
like a parade on the fourth of July.
You and your drunk friends.

You and your bird in a cage,
your little house near the mountains
and all the sentences you made up.
You and your big mug of coffee
every morning since 1972.
You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...

You and your mouthful of dreams
and your filthy hands
on someone else's skin,
you and all your tenderness
and your kisses soft with gin
You and your motherless mind.

You and the mountains -
you the director of unconscious scenery
calling big black jets
to soar through her soul
while she's not awake.

You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...
you and your subway evenings
 your list of airplanes
how many crossed the sky above your house
last night? the night before?
You and your digital door.

You and all the wives you had
and all that talk about your dad
you and your telephones
your twilight zones
you and all your songs about the ocean.

You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...

Sometimes I listen to Stefan's music in an endless loop as if it is the background to my daily life.

The Big Sleep webpage is somewhat archaic but their remains the essence and history of a band that captured sounds of traffic, ocean waves, whales and a girl chanting on the beach and incorporated this into the music.

"From here to the Horizon" and Stefan 5,260 miles away...